Issues of Christian liberty are coming to the forefront quite a bit these days. It seems like you cannot read a Christian magazine or blog devoted to following Jesus without some folks arguing in support of pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable as a Christian. Even worse, there seems to be growing support in some circles for redefining what is considered sinful in the name of what is culturally relevant.
Have you run into any of these:
Why shouldn’t we have sex before marriage, we are in a committed relationship?
Why shouldn’t we throw down some beers at the local craft brewhouse, it is where we reach people?
Why shouldn’t we date non-believers, it is the way that we refine ourselves and reach the world?
Why shouldn’t we smoke a little weed, it is better than alcohol?
When I hear these argued among christians, good intentioned true believers in Christ the flesh in me wants to just grab their shoulders and shake them – don’t you realize what you are toying with – evoking every terrible stereotype in the process.
Not because I think they are bad people or that they are any less beloved of God than I.
Rather, I lived all of the “why can’t I’s” before and boy was it painful. Jesus through His awesome power and grace saved me from all of that….not into it.
Terrible, dark and bankrupt are words that those who have walked this wordly path would associated with that time in their lives. Being in such a bitter, dark, destructive hole that only Jesus can reach in and pull you out is a terrible place to be and I would not wish that on anyone.
I simply believe that the majority of those who make these arguments have never felt the pain and heartache associated with the conduct they are supporting. Or it is possible they have simply forgotten what it was like to be totally lost, consumed by sin and have the Lord come in and save them. They have forgotten or never experienced being saved out of the grips of drugs, alcohol, the sorrow of an unequally yoked relationship or empty sex that was leading to destruction. Someone who has lived through being hit by a speeding truck would never recommend it to anyone else, no matter whether the culture thinks it is acceptable.
When Paul is addressing the Corinthians in his first letter to them, he is dealing with their decision as a church to conform to their cultural norms. The Corinthian believers are getting into turf wars, drinking at communion and suing each other. Why are they doing this? Because that is what the people in Corinth liked and were expected to do. It is what made sense to them. What harm can a little bit of wine do at communion, everyone is doing it and they are ok?
Paul repeatedly says to them stop, you are being foolish and following the wisdom of the world, the cultural things that they have told themselves are ok so that they can be respected in their communities. The things that seem wise to the world are actually worthless. The only thing that matters is what the Lord thinks is good.
In the midst of a chapter about brothers suing brothers, chapter 6, Paul seems to veer off a bit and adds this section:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Seems a bit strong if we are just talking about lawsuits, right? What do all those other things have to do with lawsuits and decisions about what we drink of who we sleep with?
Well, Paul seems to be drilling down past the conduct of the church in Corinth, the symptom of the problem being lawsuits, to reach the actual problem.
The Corinthian church has forgotten two essential things we desperately need to remember if we are to walk a Spirit filled life.
1 – Where Jesus saved us from.
2 – Where they are Now.
The Corinthian church was saved out of a culture that loved drunkenness and excess, that loved forming factions, that loved suing each other and that loved sexual immorality. They had forgotten that they were saved from this, pulled out of it and placed into a position of communion with the Living God.
I was saved out of a terrible situation. My alcohol addiction had me in a prison of my own making and was slowly destroying me and my family. Like He has for many people, Jesus saved me out of drinking miraculously, making my desire and need to drink that had plagued me from the time I was teenager. In order to walk with Jesus successfully, I need to remember and be grateful about from where He pulled me despite me and also keep in mind where I am now, in Jesus. A drowning swimmer who was saved by the lifeguard does not get up immediately after being saved and throw himself back into the pounding surf – that would be suicide.
There are many other similar examples. Wales was a huge mining area where thousands upon thousands of miners spent their off hours drinking away the pain of their hard lives when then Welsh Revival sparked. As a result of the work of the Holy Spirit the local taverns shut down – there was simply no one who wanted to drink their spirits rather then the Holy Spirit.
The Jesus Movement of the 70’s resulted in thousands of hippies stopping taking drugs through God’s great move. Jesus worked and people stopped taking drugs or drinking alcohol, not the other way around.
As followers of Jesus, our lives should never be about pushing and testing the boundaries of what we can get away with as Christians without sinning, but seeking to be a purely and wholly like Jesus as we can be regardless of what the culture is like. The almost drowned swimmer runs from that beach to which he had been saved and runs away far inland if he sees the ocean rising, he doesn’t stick just a toe in to test the water.
Paul’s list of the lost in Corinthians is remarkable not because of the list of sin possible, there is nothing remarkable or unusual about sin – everyone does it. What is amazing is what God did in response:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Let us lived washed, sanctified and justified and stay out of the rough waters.